Timothy had just gotten back from visiting his cousin and her family in DC. His Uber had just dropped him off and he was walking back into his home. But he felt heavy. He had been married to his wife for ten years, but for the past couple of years, he couldn't stand her. He hadn't felt love for a long time.
His cousin and her husband were good, modern naturalists, didn't believe in a spiritual world at all. Everything was a result of science and psychology to them. Timothy had confessed to them that everything his wife did bothered him lately. Her little humming. The way she talked when on the phone. The way she walked was even annoying to him. Some days it was basically everything. And he found himself thinking, she's making this relationship fail. He was desperately seeking help to understand why this happens but his cousins said, "Sometimes that just happens. When you're not happy in a relationship, when it's not serving you, it's time to leave. Luckily you don't have any kids."
But there was a guy on the train to the airport, however, with his head in a philosophy book. Timothy asked him about it and he seemed happy to talk. He had black-rimmed hipster glasses, corduroy pants, legs crossed.
He closed his book and said, "You look a little heavy. If I could ask, what's on your heart, brother?"
"Oh . . . Just marital stuff. I told my cousin and her husband about how I'm annoyed at everything my wife does and I haven't felt love for years. They said sometimes that just happens and when the relationship isn't serving you anymore, it's time to move on."
The hipster smiled sadly and he asked, "Is it you or her that you think is the problem?"
"When I'm with her I definitely think it's her because she's doing these annoying things. But later, I can't really justify it. She's not doing anything mean- she's great. I've just fallen out of love I guess."
"Love is definitely a mystery. But I have a different view of marriage. I don't think you'll like it."
"I'm pretty desperate. Try me."
"Well, the way I think God sees marriage is that it is meant to sanctify you-- sorry-- that means to purify you, basically. To dig into your soul and find all those little places where you are selfish, and give you reason to change. That's why it's hard. The promise you made on your wedding day is meant to keep you in it when it's tough, when you don't feel it. The promise you made to her creates the crucible so marriage can do its work. It is meant to train you to serve her."
"Serve her?" His cousin's words rang in his head, when marriage doesn't serve you...
"So, my friend, I ask you again," The hipster smiled humbly, "Is it you or is it her that is the problem?"
Timothy thought back, and although maybe there was a very real element of unattraction and annoyance that felt real, he could see that the part of him that blamed her for all these things that really weren't her fault, felt . . . well, it didn't feel like psychology. It was just mean. He replied, "There's an element of darkness in it."
"I call that sin when I see it inside of me. Then I would say, before you consider if you want to leave her, you fix the part of you that is the problem. Not sure if you're a praying man, but ask God for help. It's like AA," he hipster said this as if very familiar with their ways, "Some problems can't be overcome until we submit them to a higher power." And then he gave Timothy a mischievous smile, as if he knew this part might startle Timothy. "And you may not alone. There may be spiritual forces influencing your thoughts."
It certainly felt like that sometimes. These thoughts came out of nowhere.
"So what does that look like, I mean, fixing the problem in me?" Timothy asked as the train was slowing down, the hissing of the breaks and the loudspeaker blaring.
"Every thought is an opportunity to clean sin from your soul and train your holiness." Again he said this as if he had battled with his version of this intimately. "It's a surrender of control. It can feel like death to give it up, but just ask God for help each time. Give each thought to him as an act of sacrifice. Good luck, Timothy."
This set up an entirely different mindset as Timothy opened the door to his house. Charity met him at the door and gave him a big hug and kiss and then went back to her cleaning. She was such a good woman, he thought. I think I can do this.
Timothy unpacked, thinking about everything and then sat down in the den to pay some bills. He could hear her humming from the other room and he automatically started thinking, that's what I HATE. I can't do this anymore. It felt so real. And it startled him how quickly he had switched to that. But now he recognized that it was not just an assessment of her, it was mean, it was a darkness showing itself inside of him. Even if it were truth that she was annoying, the hate was darkness inside him, and was his to fix. And it was so strong. He clenched his fists and said to himself, "God, take that thought from me."
He was surprised that the thought subsided, and the feeling with it.
"Shit." The invisible man in the dark cloak cursed. He leaned against the desk Timothy was working at with his arms crossed. "Where did he learn that?" I don't have time to open this case again, the breakup project in DC starts in a few days. That last push was supposed to finished the job here. They obviously didn't do the job on him they were meant to. My record can't handle another botch- I'm dead.
He knelt down next to Timothy and whispered in his ear, "You just don't like her that much. You never did. Remember what Jenny said? When marriage doesn't serve you anymore it's time to leave. It's time to leave, Timothy."
"I have to try to serve her," Timothy whispered to himself. "Let this purify me."
The invisible man's fist hit the table. "Dammit! Where did he hear this shit?! I can't do this anymore! Someone always gets to them with that shitty, empty jargon."
Just then he saw another figure in the doorway and he stood up. The other figure wore a seemless black jacket that looked like leather. He had sun-caked cheeks, crow's feet at the edges of his eyes, and was bald. The man in the cloak's hand went to his sword. He cursed himself for losing his temper and giving up his position.
Then Charity came around the corner, leaning on the doorframe, not able to see the cloaked men either. She was on the phone with her sister. Timothy looked up and she mouthed the words, "I love you."
Timothy smiled until she left the room. The man in the dark cloak next to Timothy crouched slowly, lowering himself next to Timothy's ear, and the other man poised himself to leap. The man in the dark cloak whispered "Hate." And the next moment he was through the wall and gone. The man in the jacket had leapt at him and stood near the window seething with anger. "These aren't your children. You damned destroyer."
Then the invisible man in the leather jacket heard Timothy whisper, "Take it, God. I give it to you." He glanced at Timothy who was scowling, struggling in his soul. "I want to serve her. Serve her. Serve her. Chance to purify me."
The man in the jacket's eyes got large and he whispered, "Adonai be praised. God help us. When I thought hope was lost, there’s hope again!”
much of this story is inspired by the great book on marriage called “The Meaning of Marriage” by Timothy Keller.